Imagine playing against Brett Favre in the Super Bowl.
Packer fans were dismayed (and many enraged) when Brett Favre was traded to the Jets and ended up playing for the Vikings in 2009 and 2010. But in the Packers’ long history, many great players and coaches have left Green Bay for other teams. Curly Lambeau coached the Chicago Cardinals, Jim Taylor went to the New Orleans Saints, and even the great Vince Lombardi left to coach the Washington Redskins.
But no one did the deed quite as dramatically as hometown boy Arnie Herber!
Arnie Herber was a star QB for the Green Bay Packers in the 1930’s.
Herber, the first great long passer in Packer history, played for the Packers from 1930-1940. From 1935 to 1940, he and Don Hutson formed the first great passing combination in NFL history. In 1941, however, Herber was unexpectedly cut loose by Curly Lambeau for what seemed to be more personal than professional reasons. Though Herber had slowed down and gained weight over the years – the reasons Curly gave for cutting him – his release coincided with a disagreement Herber was having with Lambeau. You see Lambeau’s ex-wife Susan had returned to Green Bay eight months pregnant and claimed Lambeau was the father. Lambeau vehemently denied he was the father.
According to Lambeau’s biographer David Zimmerman, “When she couldn’t pay her rent, the Northland Hotel, where she was living, put her out. No other hotel would accept her, so she turned to Arnie Herber’s wife who took her in. When Curly found out, he insisted Herber ask Susan to leave their house so she could return to Los Angeles. Herber would have none of it and, when he refused, Lambeau released him from the team.”
Arnie Herber didn’t play for three years. After the 1943 season, Green Bay Packer Assistant Coach Red Smith was fired after a disagreement with Lambeau. He soon took a job as an assistant coach of the New York Giants. After arriving in New York, he contacted Arnie Herber to see if he had any interest in playing again. You see, during World War II, many former players came out of retirement to help fortify rosters and keep fans interested. Herber told Smith he was interested, and since both he and Smith shared a dislike for Lambeau, Smith was delighted! In 1944 and 1945, Herber returned to the game he loved and played quarterback for New York.
As fate would have it, the Giants and Packers won their respective divisions in 1944. They met for the NFL Championship Game at the Polo Grounds in New York City on December 17th. The NFL Championship Game was the equivalent of today’s Super Bowl. Though Herber had already beaten the Packers 24-0 during the regular season – with accusations of spying on Packer practices leveled after the game by Curly Lambeau – he was no match for the Packers in the rematch. He completed only 8 of 22 passes and he was intercepted four times! Green Bay won 14-7 behind two touchdowns by Wisconsin native Ted “The Bull” Fritsch.
Playing against Herber in 1944 was a huge distraction for the Packers (especially after the spying accusations). The rematch was like playing Brett Favre in a Super Bowl without all the media scrutiny and attention. Can you imagine if that ever happened?